Facebook Post of the Month – Competitive Martial Arts and Self Protection Training – Robbie Butler

A while back I wrote a post describing how an altercation I once had completely changed my approach to how I trained in martial arts…to cut that story short….the skill set I had for the ring had given me a false sense of confidence and when I faced somebody that theoretically I should have destroyed within seconds….it actually was harder than expected….and that was just to get out of there without getting hurt.

For years I had trained to do one thing….compete.

I knew that i had specific rules to follow, I knew I had a cornerman/coach to stop it should I get into danger.

I also knew there was a referee overseeing everything.

I would have weeks to know who I was fighting, I learned how to shut everything else out around me and to focus on the guy in front of me.

Obviously I did as much fitness as I needed to and also sparred a high amount of rounds….every day….week in, week out.

Along that path you hear people saying how great you are and all that jazz…and its easy to believe it….especially when you’re regularly sparring with world class fighters and not getting hurt as much any more….even against the much heavier guys.

The altercation I had though that changed my first approach to fighting some random untrained guy though….it was because I didn’t recognise the signs of adrenalin release as being my superpower….i mistook it for fear….and panic took over.

So I researched as much as i could about adrenalin and fear so i had better understanding that adrenalin is a good thing…but as I said….is all too easy to mistake for fear.

People who trained alongside me will tell you that my fitness levels were top notch…i could blast anybody out on press ups, crunches and squats and for my size I was strong and doing anywhere between 10 and 30 rounds a day was normal.

But…in that uncontrolled environment where it was just me against somebody I had never seen before or wasn’t prepared for….

It meant nothing.

When I hit him and things bounced off….it made me worry….when I felt his strength….it set off the adrenalin…which I mistook for fear….and the techniques that were sharp for the ring were no good here….and like i said in that post a while back…i wished for somebody to break it up.

So I got more interested in self protection too because i realised that I was only training sport specific and although it had got me out of a fair amount of situations previously….the techniques and the mindset of the competitor were flawed.

I travelled the country for different seminars, searched for the answers at different clubs that offered real self protection classes…and I also discovered Google and Youtube.

I found so much information and was shown hundreds of things that should help me out….but i had to figure out myself what was real…and what was just dressed up dog shit.

What I found was it was not so much about striking techniques….it was about mindset and awareness of surroundings and understanding the things that will happen during confrontation….pre-fight….in fight….and what can happen afterwards.

So I went down the behavioural analysis route.

This taught me how to spot trouble before it happened….it taught me how to talk somebody down…it taught me how to be verbally passive and verbally aggressive.

It also taught me that people in packs are dangerous….yes…trouble may start with just you and one person…but can quickly turn into a riot.

People who don’t usually get into trouble for no reason at all will often step in and lay the boot in….

So this taught me not to be tunnel visioned….to make sure i knew where i was…who was around me…where the best exit path was….also not to trust some fuckwit because he’s apologised and wants to shake your hand.

It taught me that even when you have chilled the initial aggressor down that sometimes their friends or girlfriends will still want shit to kick off…and also that not all arguments will turn into a fight.

I taught myself methods of how to appear calm even though inside my heart was thumping….I learned how to massage egos so i was not seen as a threat any more.

Obviously I needed to train these things so I would get used to as many kinds of scenarios as I could think of….so…

In simple sparring we would have to stay switched on so the people next to you could not hit you as you got close to them while you and your own partner sparred.

We would bring tables and chairs out and see what could be done in between them, we would spar on different surfaces inside and outside including wet and icy conditions.

We would train in all types of clothing and footwear as well as learning how to run….we would start off sitting down, we would stand up, we would be blind-sided.

We would turn lights off, we would have a few beers so we knew how to be under disorientation.

We would include ashtrays, beer bottles, bricks, pick axe handles, baseball bats…all manner of household items as well as items that would be found in a pub or lying in the street….including edged weapons and stilleto shoes that women wear….believe me….women can be nasty when you have just flattened their partner.

And there were no set times in our training as to when our training partner…or groups of people would attack you…

In a nutshell….you had to switch the fuck on the moment you entered till the moment you left.

I’m not saying any of this to brag or to worry anybody into thinking the world is full of bastards or that competitive martial artists are better or worse than self protection experts….

Why I have written this is just to point out that you need to figure out your path….you have to test your limits and your theories…

You have to explore your own mind and actually feel what is going on…and you have to figure out that you may be the best at something in your dojo….you may be a world champion in the ring or on the mats….

But in life there are no rules….you truly do have to expect the unexpected.

The above may seem a little nuts to some of you….whereas in reality it should make complete sense.

If it doesn’t make sense or at least make you think now that is a good point then you are blinkered….in which case you live in a bubble and will get steam rolled.

I am no master, I am not the worlds greatest fighter and won’t profess to be….but I am a realist….you only get out what you put in…you will only find answers if you ask the right questions.

Take yourself out of your comfort zone and explore as many possibilities as you can and train them as much as you can because no matter if your a competitive martial artist or a self protection expert the bottom line is this…..

We fight how we train…….so…..

Keep it real.

Martial Artists……and lying to people – Robbie Butler

Ok…..so first off….let me just say….I’m no “expert” in the field of martial arts…..both as an instructor…..by grade….or by competition…..in fact…..I’m a fucking dot on the landscape.

But….what I am….is both an observationalist (if that’s even a word)….and those that know me will tell you….I am brutally honest when it comes to methods and opinions on both my heritage, what i have passed on….and what I see being taught to people.

As an instructor…..people will be listening to you…..if you tell somebody from the off that the best way to deal with a certain situation is to poke them in the eye….then that’s what they’ll do. So you have to be very careful here.

If your heritage isn’t as glamourous as some…..then just be honest…there is no shame in not having as much experience as Grandmaster World Champion Johnny Spinnykick…..as long as you can teach what you do actually know…..and draw from your own experiences.

Otherwise you are lying to your students….and yourself.

Remember…there are also great fighters who cannot complete a full syllabus or teach…..so….that sort of puts you on an even keel.

I was lucky in the sense that I had fantastic points and continuous fighters and full contact instructors around me, namely Nigel Chappel, Dean Jones, Craig Ratledge, Stuart Watkins, Christopher Price and Ashley Brace…..totally on top of their games who I could learn from.

Then there was the full contact Muay Thai side, Karl Price, Tyerone Houston and Inmo Bob(Bob Spour). Then the self protection side , again Inmo Bob(Bob Spour) and John Mcaleese and Anthony Tex Wales Wilson.

Now you may not have heard of any of these…..but…after wanting to up my game and searching out who were the best in each of these fields…..I have to say…..the people named above knew their onions.

So my teaching methods, my training methods, competition methods and mindset ended up becoming my interpretation from what I saw from them all.

But that still limited me in my teaching ,if a student asked me a question that i was uncertain how to answer….then I would go to some of the named people above…and seek it out Sometimes they knew….sometimes they didn’t. Either way…..the person seeking the answers from myself would be told the truth…..it’s like this….or….I don’t know.

Just because you don’t have the answers…or your peers don’t….doesn’t make you any less of an instructor…..asking someone elses advice, picking their brains…..also doesn’t make you less of an instructor. But what does….is when you say this is what you must do….when the reality is you don’t have a fucking clue.

The worst part though….the biggest liars….

They are the ones that tell a person…or a parent you are ready to compete…or your child is when the truth is they aren’t.

I have seen people go from never being able to throw a punch get entered into a competition within six weeks of joining a class. This is absolute fucking crazyness.

6 weeks? Let me tell you something……although the competitions are relatively safe……this is a stupid idea for all. I honestly think event organisers should have a minimum training requirement to keep the standards…but that’s just me.

Yes…we know that proper youngsters won’t have the same skills as the experienced…..but….I personally don’t like to see kids out of their depth where a winner emerges….but still have that feeling inside of what the fuck did I just watch.

It brings down the calibre of the event.

So…..one…..don’t blow smoke up anybodies arse…..and two….don’t give in to a ranty parent who thinks their child is ready to compete. The same can be said for the older generation…..the young dumb, full of cum testosterone fuelled teenagers and early twenty somethings that have something to prove. Your job is to know when they are ready….and to tell them so.

If they aren’t ready…and you tell them so and they get upset about it…..tough. Too many instructors out there are too willing to risk their own reputation,club reputation and to put on a mediocre show…..all in the name of political recognition……and for kickbacks from the event organisers.

Once upon a time…..I would go around different clubs to test myself…..to see where I was at……sometimes I was asked to instruct at different clubs…..and what would happen most of the time…..I was beating people at their game…..and these people were apparently champions somehow. Now i’m not bigging myself up here….what I am infact bigging up…..are the methods that my instructors and fellow students passed onto me.

Sometimes…..after competing against me, even refereeing matches…..people joined my classes for my approach…..

The approach that I took was one where one….I didnt want to let myself down….two…..I didnt want to let my instructors and peers down…..three…..didn’t want to disrespect my sport…..and four…..I didn’t want to let my students down by blowing smoke up their arse. Which unfortunately too many people do.

Now…all of the above is the competitive side……but what about real life? The playground stuff……the outside a pub or in the queue down the chipshop? A.K.A……Self protection. Again……you should only ever draw on what you know to be fact….not assumption or bullshit.

There are a million and one different martial artists out there today selling their brand of self protection….. Again…..I am no expert…..but……if I say to somebody this will work every time….that in itself is a lie…..the correct method of explanation would be to say well this is an educated guess of what could work for you as it is something I have either seen work for somebody else….or I myself have done this.

Don’t dress shit up…..say it how it is.

Just because you have a box full of spanners in the shed doesn’t make you a mechanic…..you have to get out there and learn your trade. I’m not saying go out there and start a fight with somebody so you can see how long it takes to choke somebody out or lay them flat on their back. What I’m saying is……don’t be saying you’re a self protection expert or teach self defence when the reality is you don’t go out at weekends and still live at home with mam and dad.

Respect your sport

Respect your art

Respect yourself

Keep your students safe

But above everything…..

Keep it fucking real!!!!